LEWISTON, Maine — It’s official. The war in Iraq is coming to an end this year.
Reaction to the news Friday night was pretty much universal — words of relief and glee, tempered by bad memories and lingering doubts.
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” said Anissa Roberts, 41, of Bridgton.
Roberts has seen up-close the kind of terror and torment the long war has taken on American families. She’s withholding celebrations until the last U.S. soldier is back on American soil.
“My husband and I volunteer for the Maine Army National Guard Yellow Ribbon pre-deployment events,” Roberts said. “We have helped take care of the kids while the soldiers and spouses attend conferences about the various things involved in being deployed. Working with those kids, especially the ones old enough to understand why their parent is going away, was heartbreaking and enlightening.”
“Sadly,” Roberts said, “I feel that all it is going to take is the first signs of destabilization of the emerging Iraqi government for this to come to a grinding halt. And to say they will be home by the holidays is just cruel.”
President Barack Obama made the afternoon announcement, telling the world that he would bring troops home by the end of the year. The reaction from most was untarnished joy.
“It’s about time!” said Shelley Roberts McKellick, a 35-year-old from Lewiston.
But with the monumental development in this global affair, there was also scrutiny.
U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, released a statement announcing her support of the decision, but also her plan to seek more information about what it means for the United States and for Iraq.
“I will continue to monitor the situation and press administration officials to provide greater detail on the president’s plans to maintain what is an indispensable working partnership with the Iraqi government in this key strategic region,” Snowe said.
Maj. Gen. John W. Libby, the Maine National Guard’s top soldier, was happy that the troops will be coming home. No question about that. But he was unclear on how the decision would affect his troops who are scheduled to head to Iraq in early 2012. Would those units be diverted to Afghanistan?
“There’s no way I can predict that,” the general said. “I’m sure there will be speculating going on in living rooms everywhere.”
Even so, Libby found the news to be nothing but good.
“That’s (40,000) to 45,000 people who will no longer be in harm’s way,” he said.
Don Goulet of Lewiston is a Vietnam veteran who earned two Purple Hearts during his tour. He was happy for the soldiers who will be coming home to their families.
“I would like to say a big welcome home,” he said. “They have served our country well and many have suffered.”
There was political reaction and there was the more visceral.
“I lost a few good friends over there,” said Paul McLaughlin, a 67-year-old Livermore Falls man. “It hurts to think about at times.”
At the VFW on Minot Avenue in Auburn, veterans were discussing the news. Keith Davis served in Iraq as a Navy man during the first campaign there in the early ’90s. The newest war is a completely different campaign, he said. And he was glad to see it coming to an end.
“I think it’s great,” Davis said. “It’s well-overdue.”
“Like all Americans, I am inexpressibly proud of the monumental and heroic work our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have accomplished each and every day over the past eight and a half years,” he said.
(c)2011 the Sun Journal (Lewiston, Maine)
Distributed by MCT Information Services